“Unusable” state of public facilities concerns Penticton city staff

Concerns about state of public facilities
Okanagan Lake Park facilities see the most vandalism, destruction, and squatting say Penticton city staff. Vandalism has to be cleaned up almost daily, said city staff. (City of Penticton)
The Penticton Yacht and Tennis Club recently had three separate break-ins in one weekend, people had been squatting in the building and creating very unsanitary conditions, said city staff. The washroom part of the building was forced to close. Display cases and memorabilia were also destroyed. (City of Penticton)
The breeze way at 200 Block is something that “most people don’t walk to down to get to a public washroom,” said The City’s director of recreation and culture, Bergje Kozak. (City of Penticton)
There has been frequent cases of vandalism, destruction, squatting, and drug use at Lakawanna Park. This washroom is directly beside a children’s playground. (City of Penticton)

On March 3, Penticton city staff presented the reality of vandalism, loitering, breaking and entering, squatting, drug use and theft that is taking place in public washrooms and similar facilities across the city.

The city’s director of recreation and culture, Bergje Kozak, voiced the city’s concerns regarding the safety and security of public washroom facilities at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Kozak says city staff regularly observe vandalism, squatting, and general destruction in public facilities. The goal of the report was to give councillors an idea of what staff sees on a day-to-day basis.

READ MORE: Penticton makes Maclean’s list of most dangerous Canadian cities again

Okanagan Lake Park sees the most damage of all public facilities, according to Kozak. The city has been forced to weld steel bars onto the locked washroom windows at the park to keep people from breaking in. She further explained that squatting and general uncleanly and unsanitary conditions are rampant in the park washrooms.

Drug paraphernalia and other belongings that have been left behind are often found by city staff in the washrooms during their regular checks, which means the public is just as likely to walk into these conditions.

“The general public doesn’t know what to do when they walk into a facility like this,” said Kozak.

Coun. Jake Kimberley was quick to admit that he’s noticed the problem himself. “I’ve tried to go through there and truthfully I’ve had to turn around and walk back. It’s been that disgusting,” said Kimberley of the breezeway in the 200-block. Kimberley suggested a gate be added to the breezeway at night.

Mayor John Vassilaki was against the idea of blocking the breezeway as he believes allowing citizens to walk through the breezeway rather than be forced into a nearby alley helps to keep them safe.

Kimberley also suggested that the city replace porcelain toilet bowls with stainless steel ones to prevent vandalism. This has already been done at the 200 Block washroom and has prevented the destruction of the toilets but is very expensive, said Kozak, who also noted the issue is not unique to Penticton, she said every municipality in the valley is faced with similar issues.

Council unanimously voted in favour of receiving the city’s report. City staff plan to return to council with some possible solutions in the near future.

READ MORE: City, DPA says downtown Penticton safer and cleaner than ever before


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